Summary: Good Friday: Behold the man; behold the king; behold your God. Gaze upon the man upon the cross and ask yourself "who do you see?"
WHO DO YOU SEE UPON THE CROSS?
I have made it a tradition these last four years or so to watch Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion. As Easter comes around each year I use tools like this movie to meditate upon what Jesus did for us. This year, however, something strange happened.
For our movie club we viewed The Passion as planned and endured the horror. But all through the movie my thoughts kept rolling over this one thought: that guy on the cross is Jim Caviezel, the actor. Everywhere I saw the Jesus character, I thought, that’s Jim Caviezel. Now I always knew that. But after watching this movie for countless times this time it struck me more so that I was watching actors.
As we have studied the gospel of John in the last few weeks I have found the opposite take place. Here in the gospel I saw Jesus large as life. No I can’t tell you what his nose looks like or what kind of jaw he had. It’s more of a spiritual vision that comes from reading the Word. As you become familiar with the person of Jesus and you are filled with the Spirit you begin to see the Jesus of the gospels.
Who do you see upon the cross? Let us not look with physical eyes as we recount the crucifixion, but with the eyes of our heart and our spirit. Who do you see?
1. Behold the Man (19:1-13)
The farce of a trial before Caiaphas, the high priest, had already taken place. Jesus was then sent to Pilate, the Roman governor for questioning. Pilate could find nothing to accuse Jesus of and wanted to release him, but the mob was so stirred up they wanted blood. They wanted Jesus’ blood.
a) The Man of Suffering – Jesus was genuinely a man. John writes in the beginning of his gospel, “the Word became flesh,” and the man Jesus was subjected to intense suffering. We read, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged” (19:1).
There is some uncertainty about what this punishment actually consisted of. We know that the Romans had three levels of flogging: the fustigatio, a lighter beating for lesser offences; the flogalletio, a brutal flogging for more serious crimes; and the verberatio, the most terrible of all, which usually preceded crucifixion. This last one involved being stripped and bound to a pillar and then being whipped to the point of near death.
We don’t need to get graphic to understand that Jesus suffered. Scripture tells us that his suffering was indeed physical and intense. We also know that his suffering was relational; that is, not only did he suffer intense pain, but he suffered it at the hands of others. The soldiers in charge of his punishment went further and put a crown of thorns on his head, dressed him up in a horse blanket and feigned their adoration of him. Then they beat him again.
His suffering was physical, it was relational and it was emotional. It was, in other words, humiliating. When the soldiers brought Jesus back to Pilate, he tried to appeal to the pity and compassion of the crowd. “Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’” (19:5). But his appearance went beyond the pitiful to the ridiculous. Here was a broken figure in a tattered robe with a horrible headdress sprouting from his head. ‘More like a clown than a King,’ someone said. It was a picture that suited well the prophecy, “I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people” (Ps 22:6) and “he was despised and we esteemed him not” (Is 53:3).
Yet in this man is represented all the suffering that humankind has ever experienced. If you have known physical abuse or emotional abuse, you have here a man who knows how you feel. He experienced the worst kind of humiliation standing nearly naked before a crowd who rejected him and wanted nothing less than to throw him on the dung heap.
b) The Man of Sin – In this first picture of Christ’s suffering we see the God-Man ‘with us.’ Now we see the God-Man ‘for us.’ For as we see in the text two charges are brought against Jesus: blasphemy by the Jewish authorities who were offended by his pretense to be God “he claimed to be the Son of God” (19;7); and treason, which was the only charge that mattered to the Roman authorities who had the sole power to execute anyone “Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar” (19:12). Interestingly, blasphemy and treason are at the heart of all human sinning.
In Genesis 3 the sin of blasphemy is made quite clear. The serpent tells Eve that by eating the forbidden fruit, “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). Sin can be defined as our pretense to be God and make our own decisions and ruling our own lives. And in this way sin is also treason: sin is treason in that it is an act of rebellion against God’s rightful authority. God told them not to eat of that fruit and they did anyway.